Recently, a friend mentioned an old family recipe for blackberry jam. This jam retains the title of the “best in the world” according to “anyone who has ever tried it.” Maybe it is. Many families treasure recipes of all kinds, handing these down to children and grandchildren like precious heirlooms. The key to continuing the success of the special recipe, however, is to insure that modern scientific standards of food safety keep pathogens out and flavor in.
But of course it is safe, right? After all, people in the family have been making this recipe for years. Well, those people may have been really lucky. According to the Colorado State University Extension office, since 1926, most botulism cases in the United States “have been caused by improperly home-canned foods, mostly fish and vegetables, such as string beans, corn, beets, spinach, asparagus and chili peppers. Although low acid vegetables and fish have been the chief culprits, tomatoes, tomato-based mixtures and fruits such as figs, apricots, pears, peaches, applesauce, persimmons and mangoes also have been involved. In some of these cases inadequate processing permitted the growth of molds, yeasts or bacteria, which in turn raised the pH of the food sufficiently to permit the growth of C. botulinum.”
Maybe it is time to really check out those old family recipes and canning methods. Safe recipes include those from land-grant universities in the United States, and from manufacturers of canning equipment and supplies. These recipes have been tested for safety, and the methods of canning conform to current knowledge of safe home food preservation. If the old family recipe conforms to current recipes, that is great. If not, enjoy the food, but do not try to preserve it.
Links to sites with this information can be found on the MFP Website at cecentralsierra.ucanr.org. Click on the MFP logo to learn more.
The El Dorado County Master Food Preservers can help update recipes and give instructions for safe home food preservation. For questions about safe home food preservation, or to schedule a speaker for organizations or clubs on the topics of food safety or food preservation, call the Master Food Preservers at 530-621-5506.